By Jim Kimble / May 13, 2021
Internet Providers in Boston & Massachusetts
After moving around in Boston for more than a decade, I’ve tried almost every Internet provider in both apartments and now my home.
I got serious about finding the lowest price possible for Internet around 2016. And since then, I have been paying between $30 to $40 per month for just an Internet connection.
If you’re already paying $60 or $70 per month for Internet, chances are you could be paying about half of that. The key to cord cutting, streaming or simply living without cable is learning how to negotiate for the best monthly rate.
A decade ago, there was literally zero competition in and around the city of Boston. Comcast dominated the city in terms of coverage, and service wasn’t cheap. The landscape is pretty different in 2021.
If you search around the web, you can find a dozen companies offering residential Internet service. Sorting through all these services — DSL, fiber and the old fashioned copper wire — can get confusing.
There are really only four Internet service providers (ISPs) in Boston that you need to pay attention to. They are: Comcast/Xfinity, RCN, Verizon FiOS and Starry.
Table of Contents
- Internet Providers in Boston & Massachusetts
- Best Internet Service Deals in Boston
- Residential Internet Providers in Boston, MA
- How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?
- Why you should never rent your Wi-Fi setup
Best Internet Service Deals in Boston
Comcast and Verizon Fios have been focused on upgrading service and running promotions in recent months.
Xfinity Residential updates its speeds on April 25. Its “performance starter” plan now has 50Mbps download speed instead of 25Mpbs. (Details here.)
Residential Internet Providers in Boston, MA
What’s the best option for residential Internet service? It depends on two things — where exactly you live in Boston, and how much you are willing to spend. Here’s a rough list to chart out your options.
- Downtown Boston: Starry or Comcast
- North of Boston (Medford/Somerville): RCN or Comcast
- East Boston: Xfinity or Verizon FiOS or Comcast
- Boston (West): Verizon FiOS, Comcast or RCN
- Southie: RCN or Comcast
Xfinity from Comcast: In the city, and Greater Boston
Xfinity from Comcast is the largest Internet service provider in Boston. And now that they’re facing more competition in Greater Boston, it’s a lot easier to get standalone Internet service from them starting at about $30 per month.
Xfinity recently bumped up its download speed in the Northeast for its entry-level Internet service. There is no contract with Xfinity internet, but the latest pricing is valid until June 1.
- Performance Internet service costs $29.99 per month (online only deal) for 100Mbps download speed.
- Performance Pro Internet now costs $34.99 per month for 200Mbps of download speed.
- Xfinity Flex is a 4K streaming device that comes with a remote control that works with voice commands. It’s free for Xfinity Internet customers without TV service. You also get access to its Peacock Plus streaming service (usually $4.99 per month), which has hit shows such as Yellowstone.
Xfinity has a page where you can look over their Internet pricing in Boston.
RCN: North and West of Boston
RCN generally has very good introductory rates in Boston. The entry-level Internet service starts at $29.99 per month. And I’ve been able to renegotiate my monthly rate a time or two when it increased. In my experience, RCN has been the cheapest Internet service in Boston hands down.
RCN doesn’t cover all of Beantown. But if you’re living in the Somerville area, Southie or west of Boston in towns such as Needham, chances are RCN offers residential Internet service in your neighborhood.
You can look over RCN’s page for offers in the Boston area.
Verizon FiOS for Streaming in Boston
Verizon Fios offers residential Internet service within the city of Boston, and surrounding towns in Greater Boston. In the last couple of years, Verizon Fios expanded into Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. If you live west of the city in Newton, Needham or a surrounding town, chances are this will be your best deal.
The best deal I like for streaming is the 200/200 plan for $39.99 per month because it gives you plenty of bandwidth for watching Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. And if you use smart home devices and a game console, you’ll still have plenty of speed. Fios runs on fiber-optic, which is one of the best ways to stream movies in 4K HDR (Ultra HD).
If you’re considering Verizon Fios as your Internet service provider, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
- With most of their Internet-only plans, sign up for pre-pay so you can get the best price possible.
- If you’re going for a high-priced plan with Fios, check for promotions that include incentives. In the past, FiOS offered to pick up the tab on Netflix. Do the math and make sure the incentive is worthwhile when weighing what you are paying per month for Internet.
- Many promotions are silent on fees and taxes. Verizon Fios requires a special modem and router that many customers rent for about $11 per month. You can get that off your bill by purchasing a high-quality refurbished Verizon Fios router from eBay. I bought one that I’ve been very satisfied with that comes with a brief warranty. (The same link I’ve included above.)
Look over the variety of Verizon offers for Boston customers to see if there’s a good fit for you.
Starry Internet: Best Internet Service Provider for Downtown
Starry Internet is a wireless Internet service that started in Boston, and has been slowing spreading its service across the U.S.
It’s pretty straightforward.
For $50 per month, you’ll get 200Mbps download and upload speed. If you live in a building with 20 units or more — let’s say a place like Harbor Towers or Rowe’s Wharf — check to see if Starry is available in your building.
If you’re in its service range, then Starry will set up the equipment at your building and take care of the rest. You’ll use the company’s router to connect to Starry’s Internet network. And once your building is set up, your neighbors will be able to join Starry Internet too.
Maybe you’ve heard of 5G, maybe not. But wireless internet is where the market is headed.
Starry began experimenting with its system in Boston to see if I could deal with our crazy weather. They have since expanded to Los Angeles, New York City, Denver and Washington D.C. Check to see if Starry is offered in your area.
How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?
People sometimes worry that their Internet service won’t be enough to handle all the computers, streaming devices and game consoles blasting away at once inside their home. Relax!
Streaming companies like Netflix and Hulu give you a decent baseline to start working from. When you consider that streaming Netflix in HD only requires 5 Mbps (megabits per second), you don’t need as much bandwidth as you may think.
Even if you had a snazzy new 4K TV and wanted to live stream a Red Sox game in 4K, you only need 25Mbps for that. For years, I talked my way into Internet packages that had download speeds of 50Mbps.
That gave me plenty of speed to stream on two or three TVs at once while using a PC, game console or smart phone connected to WiFi.
If you’re dealing with a larger company such as Xfinity or RCN and you don’t like the rates that are on their site, then you should chat with a customer service rep online about other Internet packages. Trust me: there are other promotional offers and deals out there aside from what you see advertised on their site.
You may get offers for a lower priced Internet if you bundle services. But if you really want JUST Internet, keep saying no thanks, and ask what else they have.
No is a powerful word when someone is trying to earn your business. Say it a couple of times and you’ll probably start hearing some offers that weren’t advertised.
Why you should never rent your Wi-Fi setup
TIP: Regardless of what Internet provider you choose, the quoted price does not include “equipment fees”. This is another way of saying that you’ll get charged for renting a modem and router. The cost can add another $10 to $15 per month to your bill. In my book, that’s no bueno.
To keep your price low, considering buying your own equipment. I routinely test out modems, routers and other Wi-Fi systems throughout the year. You can read over my review of the what I consider the best Wi-Fi routers for guidance on what to buy.